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Build this powerful, influential skill to help make sense of change, communicate clearly and engage people in the most challenging situations

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    Friday
    Oct282016

    How to get people to speak up, wrap up and shut up

    In these days of collaboration and co-design, working together and aligning the team… this is an ongoing challenge for people leading teams, groups and running meetings and workshops.

    How to get people to speak up, wrap up and shut up.

    Here’s what I mean...

    When I’m running training on facilitation skills - to help leaders become better facilitators of their people and teams - these three things often crop up as a challenge of being a leader of a team:

    • Speak Up: how do you get people to speak up, to contribute, to be engaged, to speak out and to share the ideas they have
    • Wrap Up: how do you get people to wrap up, to summarise succinctly what their thinking is, what their views and opinions are and to get to the point rather than rambling
    • Shut Up: how do you get people to shut up, to conclude - once they’ve delivered their contribution, we’d often like them to pause and let others speak, or better still, stop and listen to other contributions from around the room. How do you get them to stop talking!?

    Speak up. Wrap up. Shut up. 

    Hmmmm, it sounds a bit harsh really. 

    It’s harsh because we’re making it about ‘them’. We went them to speak up. We want them to wrap up. We want them to shut up.

    If we’re a leader, what can WE do about it?

    It’s not about them because:

    It’s hard to speak up if you don’t feel like you’ll be listened to or you have been interrupted often. It feels like no one will listen to you if you do speak up anyway.

    It’s hard to wrap up if you’re a person who needs to speak to think or says things like 'I’m thinking out loud here’ or you need to talk a bit to work out what you’re actually thinking about. 

    And then it's hard to shut up if people aren’t getting your message or they need you to keep explaining it or they didn’t listen to you the first time around and so you’re having another go trying to get your message to land. 

     

    So while it looks on the surface that if everyone would just speak up, wrap up and then shut up the world would be a wonderful place… there’s more going on here folks. 

     

    Speak Up

    How does a leader facilitating a meeting and leading a team help make the environment great so people feel comfortable speaking up? How are they giving people the opportunity, the time, the space and the ears of the room to deliver their contribution? Most of us have been interrupted by an eager contributor or cut off by someone with a supposedly better idea. I think a Leader as Facilitator helps hold the interrupter at bay and allows the person currently speaking to finish their thing; giving them the space to get their views out there.

    It's not just on THEM to speak up; it’s on you as the leader, as the facilitator of the team to make the environment right for people to want to speak up. 

     

    Wrap Up

    If someone is going on and on and on and not getting to the point, they may need some help articulating their thinking. If you’re a think as you speak person you have what I call a ‘talk track’ ; you need to talk to work out what you think. Maybe your idea is still evolving. In this case you need a Leader as Facilitator who will listen, prompt with clarifying questions or capture your key points so everyone else can see and hear what you mean. You don’t want to be pushed to hurry up and finish - especially if your thinking is still evolving. Maybe you haven’t got to your point yet. To be asked to ‘wrap up’ is pushy.

    It’s not on THEM to wrap up; it’s on you as the Leader as Facilitator to help people articulate what it is they think; to question, probe, clarify and elicit the information out of them. 

     

    Shut Up

    Then once someone is speaking or is contributing their ideas and view, how do we make sure they are heard and understood? Because once they are, they will take a break, they will stop. I think we keep talking or keep trying to raise the same point if we feel no one has listened or really let us know that, yes they have heard us. 

     

    Please don’t think you need to ‘shut someone down’. It sounds a bit violent and it’s pervasive in workplaces. Usually, they haven’t had the opportunity to speak. That is, a 'protected' opportunity to speak, protected from interruption or judgement. Nor have they been heard by the leader or facilitator of the meeting or the team.

    Back off, ease off and let go. Don’t rush to get people to speak up, wind up or shut up.

    Think and work as a facilitator. Adopt the capabilities of a Leader as Facilitator to create a great environment:

    1. Give people time to warm up and contribute 
    2. Give people opportunities that are creative to contribute
    3. Then when they speak, help them articulate their thinking : support them, question them or invite them to share more so you can help everyone understand what they’re saying.

    The environment will be better, you’ll get more done because you’re all able to hear one another. Today’s collaborative, creative and consultative workplaces require it. 

    Friday
    Oct212016

    Did you decide how you would make the decision? 

    Meetings get a bad rap as being time wasters, energy drainers and demotivators. So when a meeting rocks, it really rocks; it is effective, creative, collaborative, everyone is on song and sh*t gets done.

    For many of us, the success of a meeting or session with the team is based on the outcomes it generates, the decisions made in that time and the end results we're able to walk out of the room with.

    Further to my earlier post on why that meeting didn't make a decision, I wanted to delve further into point #3... which is about deciding how you'll make a decision.

    Yes, deciding how to decide. It is a thing and it's a thing we can often forget to do.

    As a facilitator and creator of the Leader as Facilitator program, I see this all too often: decisions don't get made because we don't quite know HOW we're going to make the decision.

    I see it like a spectrum of decision-making in organisations. There's a culture of 'this is how we make decisions around here'.

    When you join a new business or team, you may not know what this decision-making culture is until you've experienced it, or tried to make decisions in another way and ended up face planting (aaargh!) or face palming (duh!) or leaving the meeting in deep frustration.

    We think or hope the decision-making process is going to be all sweet and nice and collaborative and consensus-like, yet we get surprised or shocked when majority rules and steals all the joy, taking things in a different direction.

    Here's what to do before your meeting or session; decide how you'll decide.

    Dark Patterns of Decision Making

    First to the dark side, to the dark patterns of decision-making: these are DoneUn andNone. They're evil, dark and not pretty but all too common.

    Done

    Where a decision has already been made prior to a meeting or session and you're there because "consultation". People know they need to consult but they're adopting the decide/defend approach and aren't going to be moved.

    Un

    When a decision is made, all collaborative-like and everyone's good and a little while after the meeting (be it three minutes, two hours or a couple of weeks) the decision is undone, reversed, reneged or 'reviewed'. Urgh. In political circles, I believe it is called 'the backflip'.

    None

    No decision is made. Not a thing. Lots of time spent, lots of talk, lots of 'we've got to do this' and 'I have this great idea' and 'How about we...' but nothing actually reaches the conclusion of a decision. This could also be called the 'HUH' decision where you think maybe possibly potentially a decision was made but a little while later it's not clear what the decision or outcome was. I reckon this is still a 'none' for mine.

    Moving to Brighter Decision-Making

    Let's cross a line here along the spectrum and we see that what happens when we actually DO make a decision; now it's all about HOW that decision is made.

    One

    Here a singular person - perhaps a project or product owner or stakeholder - who is responsible for the decision, makes the decision. You might have to check-in with them, get them to sign off on it or get their verbal or written 'yes'. It happens all the time; it's the voice or go-ahead from a single sole solitary one individual human. (And with AI and robots pervading our world, they're making decisions for us too!)

    Some

    A gathering or group, perhaps a sub-committee or other team have been charged with the power to make the decision. Think of an organising committee. They might go off and gather information and then they decide on behalf of others or in consultation with others. Also, this is NOT about a clique or a breakaway or coup who splinter away from the main group. This subgroup has the responsibility and power to decide, as they are.

    Many

    When you have to put your hand up or vote on anything, this is what's going on. The organisation, project or leader is trying to see how many are across the line on this decision. It's a majority thing, just like an election. Democratic, you all get a say, you all get to stick a coloured dot on the wall, or tick the box or check an answer in a survey or poll.

    Most

    Here's what a lot of organisations are going for (but perhaps don't quite get there), to get a consensus of sorts. It's where you get to have your say, you get to put forward your view. When there are lots of views to consider it can take awhile. If you're working on a project and you're consulting with stakeholders and need to get most of them 'across the line' or to 'buy-in' to the decision, this is likely what you're going for.

    You spend time listening, presenting, helping them understand, you clarify things, and it can go on and on and on. There's nothing wrong with this. It takes time and many people/organisations/leaders are in a panic* about time and simply won't give big decisions the time that's needed to get most people on board.

    *I think while MOST is attempted by a lot of organisations, they give up after a while; it takes so long, is quite challenging and chews up the calendar. They might revert to something earlier on the spectrum.

    All

    Here you get everyone truly onboard. But with complex decisions it's a hard slog. So this is great for straight up simple things that require a decision, but more complex stuff, linger somewhere earlier on the spectrum.

     

    What's the culture of decision-making where you are?

    What happens most often?

    Which types of decisions get sorted quickly and by which approach?

    What other decisions fall elsewhere on this spectrum?

    Before you next meeting or the next agenda item, decide what you're going for and how you'll decide. Does everyone need to give a thumbs-up or are you going with something less?

    Whatever you do, keep away from the dark patterns of decision-making. They're last-century, old old school and scary.

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    You are sooooo much more than a coach

    The commitment to being a coach runs deep. To spend time with someone, one on one. To take time to uncover the situation, identify some possibilities for breaking through and achieving that shift that is needed to help people reach their best.

    There may have been accreditations and development and courses to get you to this space of being able to do it seemingly effortlessly, artfully and craftfully.

    So when people set up their business as a coach, life coach, business coach, coach's coach or executive coach, I often twitch a little and think to myself, ‘Oh but you are soooooo much more than a coach.'

     

    Ingenious and Interlocking

    You might call yourself ‘coach' so people can find you and that explains what you do, but the art of coaching runs way deeper.

    Yes, the capabilities are complex and interlocking, layered and so very clever - ingenious even - to be able to connect with people and help them unlock or breakthrough and reach greater clarity, progress, understanding or heights.

    But why do so many coaches only deliver these brilliant services primarily as a coach?

    Many coaches have developed their own IP or curriculum, models or processes - or they’ve adapted ones they’ve learned to suit the field or industry they coach in.

    So why don’t they do more with their coaching skills?

    If they’re content and happy, great. But for many, it’s hard work, earning a decent living and having time to spare for self and others.

     

    Commodotised or Differentiated?

    If you say you coach, you coach. Actually, it can become a bit commoditised. You’re at risk of getting locked into corporate coaching panels and day rates aligned as the ‘same as’ the services of so many others. What differentiates you?

    Don’t get me wrong; this can be great, right, perfect for where you’re at. But even saying you’re an ‘executive coach’ still puts you with the others. 

    What if you had skills, knowledge and IP that wasn’t being tapped? That there was work, impact, influence, change or money 'left on the table’ or there were people you weren’t helping but could?

     

    More than...

    So what else could you do with those skills that don't involve the often labour intensive one-on-one sessions of coaching?

    There are other ways through which you can deliver your coaching prowess.

    The first most obvious is to take that knowledge and deliver it to a group, not 1 on 1.

    A group. Anything bigger than two people. Now you’re in facilitator mode.

    Not coach, but facilitator. Helping make the group’s work easier, not just an individual’s.

     

    (Hello: If you don’t like groups and you’d rather coach one-on-one, carry on. But if you’re thinking ‘hang on… maybe there’s something in this, I tried it a few times and…’ read on)

     

    As a facilitator, you’re asking questions, eliciting information, using models and processes and your wonderful capabilities to guide or help a group reach its potential.

    Not just one person at a time.

    The leverage and impact you have here is significant. Massive. More getting done, in less time, for more people. The power of the group is all powerful. The synergy (yes, synergy, a corny word but that’s what happens in a group - a mini explosion of euphoria as they bounce off each other and build a wonderful bubbling of possibility and insight) of the group is like... wow!

    Yes you still see individuals in the room. You can see their challenges, barriers and sticking points but you can see it as it affects the group, as well as the individual.

     

    Helping them with leverage

    Increasingly, businesses and organisations are needing facilitators who will help teams and groups make breakthroughs and progress and get clarity and do awesome work. Not just coach individuals.

    You can carry on being all one-on-one but it’s gonna take so long to get around to see and work with everyone. And many businesses just won’t take the time for everyone who needs it to have their on-on-one transformational journey. It's not leveraged enough; it's not productive enough and it's too pricey. Bottom line is not a good enough return on investment.

    How can you help a business leverage their people and their time AND bring your expertise as a coach?

    It’s to use your skills as a facilitator. To coach a group. To facilitate.

     

    Oh, and relax....

    And you can relax… you still have your coaching abilities to offer when individuals need your guidance and expertise. You don’t need to stop this or remove it or delete it. It's because you are more than a coach.

     

    So hey, don't label yourself just as a coach or only as a coach. It’s limiting your expertise and reducing their leverage. Plus it means there are teams and groups and businesses and organisations out there who could be benefiting from your great skills ... but they are having to wait in line until it’s their one-on-one time. 

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    Why be a leader who facilitates? 

    Facilitation has probably been around as a competency for thousands of years.

    But in recent decades it’s been the realm of the expert: you bring in an expert facilitator to lead your strategic planning session or run your team workshop.

    But I see that things are changing.

    In this increasingly collaborative world, teams are working together like never before. When you bring people together, you bring diversity and difference. And it’s wonderful! And it’s challenging when you are tasked with leading a team. It’s not easy knowing what to do when something happens with all that diversity and difference bubbling around in the room!

    Perhaps the topic has gone off track or maybe you’re struggling to get decisions made. Maybe there are some louder voices in the team and some quieter people who don’t contribute as much. Perhaps you have someone playing politics or pushing their agenda a little too much. Maybe there’s conflict or aggression, or maybe everyone’s being so nice to each other and so agreeable that you’re not uncovering what’s really going on!

    Whatever the human challenges you have in front of you, facilitation has come of age. Its time is now. And yes, you could outsource it to an external facilitator, but aren't you wanting to build stronger relationships with your team, your organisation and your industry? Using facilitation skills to be the facilitator in the room is a key way you can do this.

    There’s never been a better time to get people together, get work done and do it in a way that’s:

    • Respectful
    • Collaborative
    • Productive and
    • Engaging.

    In the hundreds of workshops I’ve facilitated and training people in the Leader as Facilitator capability, I often ask ‘Why are you here?’ or ‘Why do you think you need to learn this now?’

     

    One of the biggest reasons is because of something broadly called:

    Challenging situations

    As organisations grow and more and more people find themselves attached to more projects and other people across the organisation, things start to get more complex. There are more people to consult with, the gain input from, to collaborate with. The bigger the organisation, the more facilitative you need to be. You can try to tell people what to do and go all hierarchical on them so… yep, good luck with that!

    As you’re bringing all of these people together, there are always tricky situations that need to be handled or addressed. When people are passionate, get emotional and outspoken, when some people contribute a little too much and when others don’t contribute at all.

    When there are quieter members of the team, when you have introverts, extroverts, ambiverts, loud mouths, power people, disenfranchised, disengaged, disinterested… whatever you want to label people (but please don’t label people), they are people and they’re doing the best they can.

    Still, these challenging situations arise and stepping into a role of facilitation can help. It can help:

    • When you need to get disparate views combined into one.
    • When you need to get agreement.
    • When people are frustrated or have different expectations.
    • When you need to brainstorm ideas and solutions.
    • When people won’t stop talking.
    • When you don’t have much time.
    • When you’re running against the clock or the calendar.

    These are all situations that can be resolved and managed by a leader adopting a practice of facilitation. You don’t need to be a teacher, parent or boss; just be a leader who can facilitate… and all will be well.

     

    Influence and change

    Workplaces the world over are going through constant change. Leaders need to influence their teams to get on board with the changes they’re driving and leading.

    Leaders can wait and wait for people to get on board and buy-in when they are ready and many leaders don’t ‘do’ anything but wait. Some leaders feel as if they are pushing people or it is counter to good leadership.

    But between doing nothing and pushing is this thing called ‘facilitation’. There’s nothing like a big change or transformation in an organisation to create the perfect conditions for facilitation. And change is everywhere.

     

    Compliance requirements

    For many leaders facilitation is now ‘required’ of them; they must use facilitation as a tool and approach to engage with other parts of the business and stakeholders (internal and external to the business) to get work done. There’s no other accepted way. You must consult, you must encourage people to participate, you must find out what others think and involve them in the process.

     

    Dictation is done

    Yes the role of leaders is changing. Dictation is done. Engagement is here. And we’re not doing it well enough. This sweet phrase of ‘bringing people into the process’ was added in a facilitation training program by a participant from a local government council recently. She explained that Council officers needed to be better at engaging their communities, at bringing them into the project or program of work. It applies to so many fields and industries; it’s time to bring people into the work, bring them into the process. Facilitation will help you do that.

     

    Virtual teams

    The rise of remote and distributed workers all over the world means that workplaces have a rich multicultural and multigenerational mix. The likelihood of some of your team being out of physical reach of you is a given. There WILL be people in other locations, cities, time zones. And that’s not changing or stopping soon. Engaging with them is vital. Working with them is expected, but it’s how you go about it that makes the difference. Facilitation capabilities can absolutely make the biggest difference; little else will like facilitation.

     

    More with less

    As we try to do more with less or quicker with fewer, lean organisations are rising to the top. Those businesses that can identify waste and work with leaner processes are proving their mettle in changing times. They’re able to learn and adapt and respond.

    Using facilitation capabilities to engage with people, get them on board and participating and making changes to become more lean is a fruitful and productive use of facilitation.

     

    Silos, sections, teams and departments

    Many businesses complain of silos across the organisation. Those disparate groups and teams who stick to their own company, who don’t much care to crossover to another part of the business lest they be foreign and unusual and difficult to work with.

    But in this difference is opportunity.

    Approaching the challenge of silos with a facilitation mindset makes progress easier. You might not rid the organisation of silos, but you’ll be able to approach other parts of the business, engage in conversations, work and dialogue - and get better outcomes than without facilitation. 

     

    Customer centric

    Businesses of all sorts need to connect, communicate and engage better than ever. Customers want to have input into the design, development and testing of products and services. User experience and customer facing teams need to connect with customers to gain true insights, learnings and lessons. It’s only through these truthful interactions can products and services be designed to suit customer needs.

    Facilitation is a powerful technique to use to elicit information from users and customers; you can connect with them better, ask better questions and then go deeper, finding out what’s really happening and how best to fix, respond or solve it.

    And when things don’t go so well in the customer interaction department, facilitation skills help customer-facing staff handle complaints and ensure customer interactions are enhanced.

     

    Amorphous collaboration

    Many teams in business are being thrown together and expected to collaborate, now! They have little ‘get to know you time’ and are expected to get up to speed or be up and running within a short time.

    This includes remote and distributed teams; with some members never getting to meet each other face-to-face. In this situation, facilitation practices by the leader are crucial. They need to help this team form, gel and glue. They need to help create the conditions where this team can feel comfortable and start working together. The leader plays the role of facilitator – not parent or teacher or boss or police officer. Facilitator…making things easier.

     

    Meeting dysfunction 

    When we get our team together, we meet. Endlessly. And we often repeat our bad meeting behaviours. Endlessly. It’s like an infinity loop with no end. A facilitator is needed to guide, coach, elicit, set the environment and make it okay for everyone to contribute and participate.

    The Leader as Facilitator is a leader who helps get sh*t done. They make the situation suitable for great, productive work.

    When people bring or push their own agenda or when the meeting goes off track, the leader can step in and help guide things to safety. When people have different objectives, cross-purposes or different visions – when they’re not on the same page – the Leader as a Facilitator can assist. Not solve, but make things easier. When a meeting has little or no focus, or loses its way, the Leader as a Facilitator can help.

     

    And.... Cultural change

    Above all, a Leader as Facilitator approach helps build a more positive, inclusive and collaborative culture both within teams and across the wider organisation. The practices of facilitation help influence, shift and change culture – for the better. When people listen better, participate more, contribute their best and play with a collaborative spirit, good things happen.

     

    Tuesday
    Oct042016

    The Visual Agile Manifesto - refreshed

    A few years ago I created a visual representation of the written Agile Manifesto.

    It seemed to resonate with people; it got printed out, pinned up on walls and was shared and talked about in workplaces all over the world.

    I've updated the visual - with the same elements - but looking a little more refreshed.

    Here it is...